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By tamara
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On Tipping

I recently moved into a historically Black neighborhood. The area has suffered the same fate of many inner city neighborhoods across the country and is just starting to rebuild decades of urban decay. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I ran into a young White man who mentioned that he too was new to the neighborhood and lamented the lack of sit-down restaurants in the area. Maybe it was the Duke hoodie I was wearing or maybe he just had a momentary lapse, because then he chuckled, “Probably can’t keep a nice restaurant open around here since Black people don’t tip.”

I’ll spare you the details of the rest of our interaction but the sentiment he so honestly expressed is a prevalent one.

This study only speaks to the perceptions of servers and provides no statistical evidence of the tipping patterns of Black people so it could be easy to offer up a “self-fulfilling prophecy” explanation. Because servers approach Black patrons with this prejudice in mind, their service is of lower quality, and because of this lackluster service, Black patrons tend to offer lower tips. If that were the case then restaurant owners and managers could just monitor their servers’ behaviors toward Black customers and make every attempt to limit their racial biases and to correct the behavior.

But it’s not. According to a Cornell University study, Blacks tend to tip less than their White counterparts no matter what their socioeconomic status or their perception of the service they received. The study suggests that Blacks are not as familiar with the 15-20% tipping norm. I can honestly say that that is my personal experience. My parents have always been flat dollar tippers. They tip well but don’t bother with percentages of the bill and I have inherited that behavior. I tend toward over-tipping, perhaps as a response to the stereotype that I know is alive and well, but I rarely stick to the 15-20% norm.

What about you? Are you an over-tipper? Will the results of this study alter your position on tipping?